Roanoke, So Far, So Good: A Few Old Goats Great Scot!, Scotch Ale (sort of), Roanoke, Va.
Date: May 8, 2019
The Story— We’re in Roanoke for a couple of nights (not now, thieves, duh, we don’t post our whereabouts in real time) to explore a small city that three outside breweries have chosen as a premier destination. We found the local guys aren’t half bad either.
Roanoke was born as a railroad town and still is a remarkable railroad junction. From our room at the old railroad hotel (upgraded to a top flight Hilton Curio Collection gem) we saw at least a half a dozen long freights pass below us each day. The Starr Hill brewery was on a different line and the trains thundered though that area as well. A marvelous, if somewhat small-town, railroad museum is a must see when you’re there. Beer and music abounds, if you run out of breweries there are late-night bars that serve local suds, and even the upscale hotel bar serves good Virginia craft beer.
You probably will want to take a ride share (easy, quick and cheap) for AFOG and Starr Hill, but the other four are in easy walking range. Deschutes has pulled back from a large East Coast brewing operation, but left their tap room open, Three Notch’d has brewing space in place and will be brewing small batch beers soon, and Starr Hill brews a small number of beers on premise to go with a good range of its Crozet beers.
But we had great experiences with the locals — we’ll feature Soaring Ridge and Big Lick next, but the Old Goats won our hearts. We wrote this yesterday about A Few Old Goats, a wonderfully endearing off-the-main-drag barely google-able brewery that just turns out really good beer: We’ve spend over 40 years hunting overlooked brewery gems and it still thrills us to find one. It’s what we do. But what set these goats apart was the universal respect they’ve earned from other Roanoke brewers. They’re very small, their brewery should be marginally dysfunctional and yet they brew beers that not only gained our interloper attention but commanded respect throughout the town.
They do a really good IPA (well, who doesn’t if they want to), but we picked this not altogether authentic Scot’s ale because the Scots don’t make it into these posts all that often and because this is a beer that shouldn’t be anything better than OK, and is actually very very good. We’re friends with Bruce Williams, a very-Scot, who has dumped in everything from elderberries to seaweed in beers after hitting a home run with his Heather Ale. But we don’t think even Bruce ever used oranges. It just ain’t done. But these goats made it work.
The Beer— Unusually, here the orange is a team player. The wood and whiskey is big enough and the duel between the barrel and the fruit so balanced that the Wee Heavy essence slips through with remarkable clarity. We wondered if it might actually drink stronger than the advertised 6.3%.
Value — Good. If they sold at a bargain, they’d be out of business in a month.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.